Saturday, 10 September 2011

Defend our services! Back Barnet Unison!

Barnet council senior management certainly have done their best to sow confusion this week, with the two versions of the letter they sent to staff due to take a half-day's strike action on Tuesday. Are they or aren't they seeking an injunction against the strike, ie, to ban it? We can't be sure.

What I read into the email they sent to all staff is that they intend to impose their most recent offer on those staff who find themselves transferred to a private sector employer. Their message to staff seems to be: like it or lump it.

It seems they can't be bothered to negotiate with the staff's representative unions any longer (not that their heart ever seemed to be in the talks that they did have). It's too much like hard work; they have some council services to flog off!

Much easier for them, apparently, to tell some fibs: they say the key union involved (Unison) failed to put the offer to staff - in fact, the union understood that the offer was embargoed - by the council.

The clearest message of support needs to go to the staff from residents worried about the One Barnet (mass outsourcing) Programme. And from other trade unionists, in the borough and elsewhere. We should get behind the 400 or so staff who will go on a half-day strike this Tuesday.

Our services will be better quality, more responsive if they remain in-house.

Please send messages of support to the union via branch secretary John Burgess: And please come to the lobby of the council meeting, 5.30-7pm, Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, NW4 4BG this Tuesday 13 September.

Barnet Unison's press release regarding Tuesday's strike
6 September 2011

On Tuesday 13 September up to 400 UNISON members working across the following services will be taking strike action:

Trading Standards & Licensing, Land Charges, Planning & Development, Building Control & Structures, Environmental Health, Highways Strategy, Highways Network Management, Highways Traffic & Development, Highways Transport & Regeneration, Strategic Planning & Regeneration, Cemeteries & Crematoria, Parking Services, Revenues & Benefits.

The Trades Dispute concerns the identity of the employer. Barnet Council is promoting the One Barnet Programme which is just a ‘remix version’ of the ‘contracting out’ ideology from the 1980s. There are already several contracts out for consultation with the private sector. The value of the contracts (fast approaching almost £2 billion) has already attracted the big private sector FAT CATS.

Up to 70% of the council workforce could be transferred to the private sector in little more than 16 months' time.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary's message to Barnet UNISON:

“To the 400 UNISON members taking strike action: UNISON members across the country are standing shoulder to shoulder with you as you challenge this council – a council that refuses to listen to its workforce, a council that refuses to listen to logic or sense, a council now embarking on a reckless gamble.

“Last week our union commissioned a report on the impact of outsourcing on the council’s pension scheme. The report gave a damning assessment of the serious financial risks to the pension scheme as a direct result of the One Barnet Programme."

Heather Wakefield, UNISON's head of local government, said:

"The widescale privatisation at the heart of One Barnet should be placed under the severest scrutiny by Government, Barnet's scrutiny committee and the people of Barnet themselves. The council's failure to ensure procurement procedures and the obvious detrimental impact on the Local Government Pension Scheme of privatisation of local services are just two good reasons for challenging the path that Barnet has chosen. The third is the waste of public money involved in the procurement process through payments to consultants, procurement costs and payments to shareholders - money which should be invested in local people and local services."

John Burgess, Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary, said:

“The Council need to recognise that ‘political dogma’, also known as the One Barnet Programme, cannot be allowed to continue to expose residents, services and staff to a high risk strategy and expect them to pick up the bill."

What we mean by ‘independence’

A recent article “Greensquare Field – Planning to Outsource Planning" posted on the Barnet Eye blog encapsulates conflict of interest issues:

“At the moment Barnet Council is in the middle of tendering to outsource a number of services, one of which is the planning service. In the running are a number of companies: Capita Symonds, Atkins, Jacobs and E C Harrison. The planning consultants who represent Higgins Homes plc, and have done through two planning applications, two planning appeals, a village green application and the draft LDF, work for Capita Symonds. If Capita win the tender, they will decide any future planning applications.”

As council services for Barnet as a place to live and work, our decisions must be 100% independent and free from any ‘conflict of interest’.

Barnet UNISON is asking for the One Barnet programme to be put on hold.

Contact: John Burgess, Barnet UNISON, on 07738 389569 or email

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